Tips for tailgate food safety


August 23, 2016

Kick off football season with a food-safe tailgate.

With the arrival of football season, game day is sure to be packed with tailgating festivities. Because appetizers, warm dips, slow-cooker favorites, grilled meats and other foods items are some of the main highlights, it’s important to ensure that they are safe to eat. Safe food handling practices should be put to use to decrease risk of foodborne illness.

Follow these key tailgate food safety tips:

Keep your team clean

  • If no running water will be available at the tailgating site, bring water and liquid hand soap to wash your hands before and after handling, cooking and eating food. Antibacterial hand sanitizer is a good alternative.
  • Pack wet, disposable wipes to clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Store raw meat, poultry and seafood in a separate cooler so their juices don’t come in contact with ready-to-eat foods. This will help avoid risk of bacterial cross-contamination.

Don’t be a fair temperature fan

Team Cold

  • All cold foods and leftovers should be stored in insulated coolers with sufficient gel packs or ice cubes to maintain a temperature of 40°F or below.
  • Because coolers serve as portable refrigerators, avoid opening them frequently so as not to continue releasing cold air. Consider storing beverages in a separate cooler for this reason.
  • Routinely check to make sure that coolers stay at 40°F or below. Add additional gel packs or ice cubes if the temperature rises.

Team Hot

  • All hot foods should be maintained at a temperature of 140°F or above.
  • Food should be re-heated to a minimal internal temperature of 165°F or above.
  • Hot take-out food should be eaten within two hours of purchase.
  • If electricity is available at the tailgate site, slow cookers are a great option for maintaining hot food such as chili, sloppy joe mix or homemade dips.
  • Insulated thermos containers can also be used to keep hot foods hot. Simply fill the thermos with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, then add hot food.

Stay out of the danger zone

  • Stay clear of the temperature danger zone (40 – 140°F) by using both a food and appliance thermometer to check temperatures.
  • Grill meat, poultry and seafood to the appropriate minimal internal temperature:
    • Poultry                                                                                              165°F
    • Ground meats                                                                                 160°F
    • Beef, pork, lamb, veal, steaks, roasts & chops                          145°F
    • Hot dogs & bratwurst                                                                    165°F
    • Leftovers (re-heated)                                                                     165°F
  • Clean food thermometers after each use to avoid bacterial cross-contamination.
  • Food should be eaten within two hours of sitting out. If the temperature is 90°F or above, it should not sit out for longer than one hour.

Tackle safe serving head-on

  • Foods coming off of the grill should be placed on a clean plate. Do not put on the same plate that held raw meat, poultry or seafood, as bacteria can contaminate safely-cooked food.
  • Bring sufficient serving spoons, tongs and other utensils to avoid fans grabbing food items with bare hands.
  • Consider using disposable cups, plates and silverware to minimize potential contamination and ease clean-up.

Check out these healthy tailgating recipes to lighten up your game day eats.